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Contributed by Fayez (Frank) Nasser on 14.10.2007:

The inhabitants of Beit Jala were, since ancient times, and still are, divided into 5 clans (Harat).

Each clan (Hara) consists of a group of families, some of which are original inhabitants and others who chose to join a particular clan. The voting or electoral rolls of Beit Jala are grouped accordingly up to present times.

Many variations in spelling of a particular same name are very common. This is the result of phonetically transliterating the original Arabic names into other languages such as English, French, Spanish or German. That was necessary to obtain travel documents to foreign countries, or the registration of the settlers in other non-Arab countries. The main reason for this confusion arises from the fact that, although the Arabic language has 28 letters in its alphabet, three of which are vowels, twelve have no equivalent in the Romanesque languages. The 12 Arabic letters are:

1)“Ha”=“ح”: a heavy guttural letter H, pronounced as if clearing your throat, usually phonetically transcribed or transliterated as H, e.g. Hanna, Handal, Hanania, Harb, Hazboun etc. It is not the same as the soft “ha” as in Hamlet.

2)“Kh:ah”=“خ”: a heavier guttural H, also pronounced as if clearing your throat, as in the Scottish “loch”, usually transliterated as KH or CH, e.g. “Khubez” a family name as well as “bread”.

3)“DH:AHL”=“ذ”: usually transliterated as TH or DH, e.g. Thawabeh, Thee’ban.

4)“Sheen”=“ش”: usually transliterated as SH or CH, e.g. Sha’heen, She’ha’deh, Chomali.

5)“Sad”=“ص”: a heavy S usually transliterated as S or SS, e.g. Nasser, Asfoorah, Saq’an.

6)“Da:d”=“ض”: a heavy D usually transliterated as D, e.g. Handal.

7)“Ta”=“ط”: a heavy T usually transliterated as T, e.g. Tabash, Batarseh. It is not the same as the soft “T” as in Hit, Hot, Hat.

8)“Thah”=“ظ”: a heavy TH or ZH, e.g. Thaher, Zhaher, Muthaher.

9)“Ayn”=“ع”: a heavy guttoral A pronounced as if clearing your throat, usually transliterated as A, e.g. Abbas, Assaf.

10)“Ghayn”=“غ”: pronounced like the rolled Parisian “R”, e.g. Ghanem, Zoghbi, Ghattas.

11)“Qaf”=“ق” a heavy guttural Q, usually transliterated as Q, Qu, K or CK, e.g. Kattan, Saq’an, De’ek, Dieck, Karra’a.

12)“Jeem”=“ج”: may be transliterated as “J” in English, but as “Gi” in Spanish and German, because the Spanish pronounce J as “H” and the Germans as “Y”.

So, it follows that any Arabic name that consists of one or more of the above 12 letters will definitely have more than one spelling when phonetically translated, transcribed or transliterated into other languages. A fresh reminder of the biblical Tower of Babel.

To make translation of Arabic names into foreign languages more complicated, there are only three vowels in the Arabic alphabet: “Alef” (equivalent to A), “Waw” (equivalent to O) and “Ya” (equivalent to i, e, ie, ei, or y). These 3 vowels are also pronounced differently dependent on one of three accents that are used with them but are seldom used in writing. The three accents are: “Fat’ha” (equivalent to A), “Dam’meh” (equivalent to O, OU, OO) and “Kas’rah” (equivalent to i, e, ie, or y). So the “Alef” could be A, O, Ou, E, or I. The same applies to the “Waw” and the “Ya”.

To add to the confusion, some names have been literally translated into other languages, e.g. Yaqoub becomes Jacob, Jack, Jacobo, Yacobo, Jacques, James, Jake or Jim.

Yusef, Yusuf, Yousef, becomes Joseph, Joe, Josef, Giuseppe, Joseppe.

Mariam or Miryam, becomes Maria, Mary, Marie.

And another name Mikha’il becomes Michael, Michel, Miquel, Mike.

You can imagine the difficulties one encounters when Googling any Arabic name, or searching for a name on the Palestine-Family website.

For example: “NASSER” may also be found spelled as: “Naser”, “Nassir”, “Nasir”, “Nazer”, “Nasr”, etc. Moreover, the “Abu-”, “Al-“ or “El-“ preceding a name is often dropped out, so “Al-Jaar” may be shortened to “Jaar”, and “Al-Zoghbi” becomes “Zoghbi”, “Zughbi”, or “Zoghby”.

The following names of the families of Beit Jala have been transliterated into English. Most of the families are still living in Beit Jala, but over time, some of the families immigrated to many other countries and none of their descendants live anymore in the region.

1 – SAMA’NEH: The Sama’neh clan, named after their ancestor SEM’AN, consists of the following families (in alphabetical order):

(a) AL-SAMA’NEH: Abu-Awad, Abu-Jir’yes, Abu-Zghe’breh, Al-Hath’weh, Al-Saqa, Al-Sarras, Abu-Zghe’breh, Bsharah, Rizq’Allah.

(b) AL-HSAI’NAT: Abul-Subul, Al-Arja, Al-Dagh’ash, Al-Hsain, Al-Teet, Hanna-Saleh, Jiryes, Mbarak, Mukarkar, Musleh, O’deh, Rabi’, Zeit, Zrayneh.

(c) AL-THA’AL’BEH: Abu-Sa’da, Al-Skhool, Aw’wad, O’deh, Salah, Shah’wan, She’hadeh.

2 – Al-SARAR: Al-Arar’feh, Al-Daqam’qah, Al-Hoora, Al-Jerban, Al-Khir’fan, Al-Mutasar’ribeen, Al-Qattan, Al-Ruzooz, Al-Shamam’seh, Al-Zhuroof.

3 – Al-IRAQ: consist of the following families:

(a) AL-NAWA’WIYAH: Abu-Aba’ra, Abu-Ghosh, Bar’ham, Da’wed, El-Alam, El-Qah’hat, Khalilieh, Kha’mees, Qay’sieh, Saba, Salameh, Sal’man, Tab’kha.

(b) AL-GHA’WALLI: Abu-Mohor, Abu-Sa’ad, Abu-Shawri’yeh, Al-Mit’wa’si, Bandi, Mis’ed, Qas’sees, Saba-Khalil, Shetlat-Sharaf, Wa’wee.

4 – AL-DAIR: Abu-Qu’bo, El’Alam, Ghareeb, Habeebeh, Kha’mash’ta, Matar, Mitri, Muf’dee, Najjar, Nazzal, Saba, Sha’heen, Zey’dan.

5 – AL-KANEES: consist of the following families:

(a) AL-QASAS’FEH: Abu-Rum’man, Abu-Shaw’riyeh, Abu-Thom, Al-Zum’mar,

El-A’raj, Kha’mees.

(b) AL-JUWAY’JAT: Abu-Am’sha, Abu-Eid, Abu-Ghat’tas, Abu-Hadbeh, Abu-Hanak, Al-Mehreez, Man’soor, Takh’mani.

(c) AL-SHAMRAH: Al-Sha’er, A’qel, Ka’bar, Qun’qar, Zagh’moot, Ziyadeh.

(d) AL-AWAW’YEH: Al-Khoo’ree, Ibrahim, Jir’yes, Kafati, Shaheen, Sim’an,



Paulina Dabed

on 21.06.2020

My name is Paulina Dabed. I was born in Chile and my grandfather in Beit Jala. Now I know the origin of my last name. It come from clan number three: Al – Iraq. Thanks


on 22.09.2020

Hello, my last name from my mom’s side is Giha. She says my grandfather is from Biet Jala , he died probably 70 years ago in Peru. I have no much information about him or his relatives . Can someone help me please? My email